Prosecute the torture.

May 6, 2005

The Trib Shades the Santorum Story (no surprise there)

With obvious deference to the Maria, QoaM, I'd like to take the opportunity to deconstruct the Trib's reporting on yesterday's events. Let me first say that I don't know Reid Frazier, the reporter who covered the story from The Tribune-Review and that I'll be e-mailing him to give him the opportunity to respond. Of course, I'll post whatever he says.

He begins the article with this:
Allegheny County prosecutors don't know if U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum violated any laws by getting a $70 annual tax break on his Penn Hills house.
And in doing so it's pretty obvious that Frazier is looking to downplay the size and importance of the story. Why are these people getting so hung up on a lousy seventy bucks a year?

With his third paragraph:
Democracy for Pittsburgh, a group of Democratic Party activists, petitioned Zappala for the inquiry. Democrats have targeted the Republican in next year's election.
Frazier is looking to emphasize the seeming political nature of the activists and more importantly the timing of the petition. Too bad that not all of the members of Democracy for Pittsburgh are indeed members of the Democratic Party.

Then before quoting anything from the petition or Joy Sabl's comments yesterday (which by the way he never quotes), he gives the floor to Senator Santorum:
"This is obviously a partisan political move on the part of these people, motivated either by the Democratic (National) Committee or the campaign of my opponent," said Santorum, the Senate's No. 3 Republican. "I'd hope the district attorney would not waste taxpayers' resources on playing political games."
And the quote does nothing but reinforce the first few paragraphs of the piece. Santorum is trying to spin this story into being nothing more than a "political game" of the DNC or the Senatorial campaign of Bob Casey. Good public servant that he is, he's hoping the DA won't "waste taxpayers' resources" in tracking down the story.

The next two paragraphs keep pounding away at the political angle:
Democracy for Pittsburgh is affiliated with Democracy for America, a grassroots organization that grew out of Democrat Howard Dean's presidential campaign.

Zappala, a Democrat, declined to comment.
Frazier has again linked DfP with Democracy for America and through that to "Democrat Howard Dean" (who just happens to head up the DNC). Oh, and he dutifully points out that DA Zappala is also a democrat. Fancy that!

Frazier finally gives us something close to the real issues at play when he writes in the 7th and 8th paragraphs of his 15 paragraph piece.

But spokesman Mike Manko said the prosecutor's sleuths will examine whether Santorum provided false information in applying for the exemption. Santorum spends most of his time with this family in Leesburg, Va., outside Washington.

The exemption allows homeowners to save on the county property taxes they pay on their primary residence. [emphasis added]

I added the emphasis to "primary residence" for a reason. It'll become important in a few minutes.

After adding this defense of the Senator:
Santorum is registered to vote in Penn Hills. His automobile registration and driver's license list his address on Stephens Lane, Penn Hills.
Frazier allows Senator Santorum some slimy wiggle room with this:

Allegheny County officials have been unable even to locate an application for a homestead exemption filed by Santorum.

"The county has never found that I filed for it, and to my recollection, I didn't file for it," Santorum said. "The point is, the question is, 'Am I a resident?' Yes. 'Am I entitled to this? Yes.' "

Is the Senator actually saying that he DIDN'T file for the exemption? Not exactly. He just can't remember. The fact that he's received the exemption isn't enough proof, I guess, that he (or someone else) filed for it. Perhaps someone else filed the exemption for the Senator or some overeager staffer pulled a few strings on the Senator's behalf (without the Senator knowign it, of course). Vainly he seeks some wiggle room.

In any event, it's not a question as to whether the Senator is a resident of Penn Hills, it's whether the Penn Hills residence is his primary residence (see? I told you it would be important!). Only then could he get the exemption. I don't know if you can see it, but in the picture at the Democracy for Pittsburgh website article, Joy Sable is in fact pointing at the words "primary residence" on the exemption form. It's the two words highlighted in yellow on the page. Impossible to miss.

So the amount of the exemption really isn't the issue. The real issue is whether Rick Santorum, Junior Senator from Pennsylvania has ever fraudulently filled out a State Tax form.

Isn't filing a fraudulent tax return an illegal act? Don't the residents of the State of Pennsylvania have the right to know whether their Junior Senator is a crook?

No comments: